Recently, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities in the South has been covered widely in the media. These articles correctly attribute this disparity partly to a lack of access to healthcare, including the stubborn refusal of many Southern legislatures to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. However, we know all too well that a lack of robust workplace protections is another major factor putting Southerners at greater risk.
Working people in the South have some of the fewest legal protections for their health and economic security in the country. For example, Southern workers are less likely to have access to paid leave than those in other regions. And state lawmakers in the South have increasingly passed laws preventing local governments from taking action on a broad range of issues, from environmental protections to public health measures. While recent federal legislation provides some workers with critical new rights in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, major gaps remain, and Southern lawmakers must act to fill those gaps.
ABB has shared policy recommendations with 12 governors and 50 mayors across the South to provide a blueprint for supporting working women, families, and caregivers through this public health crisis, and beyond. In this unprecedented moment, Southern lawmakers have a unique opportunity to reimagine the policies that protect and support working families in their communities.
We recommend that Southern lawmakers:
- Enact comprehensive paid sick leave and paid family leave policies for public sector employees, and explore filling in the private sector gaps in federal law, to ensure that all workers have access to these critical protections.
- Protect pregnant workers by guaranteeing reasonable workplace accommodations when requested and ensuring that one support person can be present during childbirth.
- Promote economic security for families by expanding access to social safety net programs and ensure that all workers deemed essential—including grocery workers—receive proper health and economic protections.
- Support access to child care by utilizing all available funding and guaranteeing adequate pay and safety equipment for child care providers. Explore providing free child care to all essential workers.
- Allow local leaders to make decisions that are best for their communities by suspending or repealing restrictive state preemption laws, especially around worker protections and affordable housing.
Click here to read the full policy recommendations.